Before you purchase a probiotic supplement with the belief that you’ll gain all the benefits of a probiotic, you should first ask yourself if they survive stomach acid or whether they even arrive at their destination to function effectively.
As you know, probiotics are meant to reach the gastrointestinal tract where they release good bacteria that fights off diseases, infections, among other digestive and reproductive issues. To get to the intestines, they have to bypass the stomach which releases hydrochloric acid used to break down food. In the process, the acid could as well break down the good bacteria, rendering their consumption futile.
But, that’s not the case for all types of probiotics. Some species and strains of probiotics have more resistance that allows them to survive the stomach acid, reaching the intestines and colonizing the host; eventually, imparting their benefits. Take a look at the types of probiotics that you should be taking and the mechanism as to how they survive the acid.
Do They Survive and How?
Short answer, yes! But there are conditions.
Probiotics are meant to work in the gastrointestinal tract meaning they have what it takes to survive, however, different probiotic strains exhibit different pH levels meaning the strains can only withstand up to a certain level of acidity.
According to comparative analysis, Lactobacillus strains from multiple species; acidophilus, Plantarum, casei; have higher pH resistance than Streptococcus strains. This means they have better chances of surviving stomach acid compared to the latter.
Moreover, the different strains in the species have increased sensitivity to acid values below 3.0. A good example is a human-derived strain L. rhamnosus GG used to make commercial probiotic supplements.
Known for its numerous health benefits, they can survive a gastrointestinal tract with a ph of as low as 2.5 for four hours.
Further studies reveal that the issue of survival can be affected by other variants including the time of day. The stomach produces acid at different levels throughout the day.
Morning hours have less acidity of ph value 4.0 compared to during the day(pH value 3.0, therefore, weak probiotic strains such as those in live cultures can surpass the stomach acid.
This means that regardless of the type of strain found in the supplement, morning hours, or times when the stomach acid is low, the probiotics have greater odds of survival.
Probiotics strains can also survive stomach acid in the presence of glucose. Glucose is said to go through glycolysis, which in turn enables proton exclusion allowing survival of probiotics during gastric transit.
The glucose will act as a catalytic enzyme that devoid attention from the probiotic to itself. Proton exclusion will lower the pH and regulate the level to a point where it’s safe for the probiotic to pass.
Lastly, supplements can also have something called an enteric coating. The coating acts as a shield to aid probiotics to survive stomach acid.
The special casing coated on capsules will keep the supplement intact until they arrive in the stomach where it will then easily dissolve into the small intestine. This ensures the good bacteria is alive by the time it reaches the gut.
The coating isn’t often used as critics don’t encourage the use of synthetics plus there’s a possibility that the coating doesn’t open up in the stomach and therefore doesn’t release the good bacteria to the intestines.
Probiotics that Survive Stomach Acid
As mentioned above, all the probiotics have a chance of survival, however, several species and strains have a better chance at it. Here’s a look at probiotics that do and don’t survive stomach acid.
The Types & Strains that Survive
Robust types and strains of probiotics that are said to survive the harshest of pH values include;
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – a good strain is the Rosell 52
- Lactobacillus Plantarum – it can survive in any environment between 1-60 degrees Celsius. a wide scale of atmospheric pressures. temperatures between 15-45˚C and at pH levels as low as 3.2.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – specific strain GG
- Lactobacillus paracasei – strains CBA L74, ST11, 01 are known for their best resistance to high temperatures and ph values.
- Bifidobacterium infantis – a good strain is Rosell 33
- Bifidobacterium longer- unlike some probiotics, this species isn’t affected by stomach acid, bile, pH fluctuations, or the passage through the gastrointestinal tract
Types & Strains that Don’t Survive
Generally, weak strains include;
- Lactobacillus casei – it functions best at a pH of 5.5 which is not a very good resistance value.
- Lactobacillus Brevis
- Lactobacillus salivarius
How to Tell If Probiotics are Alive (They Survived the Acid)
You can’t be 100% sure if the probiotic survived the stomach acid, however, the effects of taking the probiotic should be seen soon after taking them, or otherwise, they aren’t effective.
By probiotics being alive, it means they get to do their work either help with digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, help with acid reflux, or whatever other issues.
If you see an improvement four to 12 weeks later, even sooner, then you can know the probiotics do survive stomach acid.
Does Kefir Survive Stomach Acid?
Kefir, yogurt, Kombucha, sauerkraut all fall in the same category of fermented foods. These foods have live cultures that more often than not, don’t survive the stomach acid for numerous reasons.
Say they don’t have the right dosage that contains a specific amount of sugar content, CFUs, or collection of strains. This minimizes their chances of survival and ability to work effectively in the gut.
Can Probiotics Increase Stomach Acid?
Yes, they can. Probiotics for the longest time has been used to control acid reflux where the body has less acidic levels in the stomach. The use of probiotics reveals that it can increase stomach acidity, decrease or inhibit growth, and overgrowth of bacteria.